More than at any time before, we need to apply circular economy and resource efficiency principles to buildings to reduce resource use in the future. The European Commission has reaffirmed this message by the European Green Deal.
However, it is far from easy to implement concepts of resource efficiency and the circular economy to buildings. The actors involved are facing several existing or potential dilemmas: structural resistance versus easy to disassemble, longevity versus flexibility, simple versus composite products, renovations versus new-build, etc.
Within the context of the Construction 2020 initiative,2 the Thematic Group 3 on “Sustainable use of natural resources” – bringing together a diverse group of relevant stakeholders from the European Commission, Member States and the construction value chain – has taken several steps towards a circular economy approach and increased resource efficiency in the building sector. For example, Thematic Group 3 developed an EU Construction & Demolition Waste Protocol and Guidelines – published in 2016 and widely promoted since.
Building on the above actions, Thematic Group 3 started a new initiative, following the announcement of the Clean Energy for All Package.4 The EU Construction and Demolition Waste Protocol and Guidelines for pre-demolition waste audits5 focused on the reuse and recycling of this particular waste stream. In contrast, the focus of the current initiative is to present a set of principles for the sustainable design of buildings with the aim to generate less construction and demolition waste as well as facilitate the reuse and recycling of construction materials, products and building elements, and help reduce the environmental impacts and life cycle costs of the building.
As part of the preparation of this document, Thematic Group 3 has held several meetings and exchanges in 2017, 2018 and 2019 to deepen the insights into this complex matter and to provide room for a balanced representation of views. This document builds heavily on the insights and expertise shared by participating stakeholders. The document has benefited from various rounds of exchange before evolving into this final version.